| Beyond conventional sociology of organisation: An invitation for a debate (1995) |
A conventional starting point of understanding organisations is of legality i.e., organisations as legal entities. This legality itself is a part of the problematic. We will come back to this but let us first look at the position itself.
Organisations are supposed to be in the domain of contractual relationship a la, a Hobbsian legacy. Much the way buyers and sellers, and employers and employees exchange goods and services so do individuals voluntarily come together to form collectives. The constitution of the organisation, encoded in the ‘text’ of bye-laws, memorandum of association etc. is the contract deed for the constituents. This construction of organisations finds it echo in institutional economics. The members form and participate in organisations as ‘rational’ actors and ‘legal’ subjects because cost and benefit of doing things is more favourable through a collective. There are different forms of contractual relationship, depending on the purpose like, company, co-operative, society, trust and trade unions.1 The members to the ‘contract’ of organisation acquire rights and obligation vis-a-vis other members and rest of the world. The contractual relationships are made binding on the parties to it and vested a "corporate identity", as if it were a natural person. The state sanctifies and enforces these contracts. The raison datre for the body of law and state is that if there no governing mechanism the social contract will be meaningless.
In reality, organisations are not tangible concrete entities. After all, an organisation is neither a thing nor a person. It is only a personification, albeit a fictitious legal one, of relationships. Therefore, a question on the nature of an organisation is basically about the relationships which constitute the organisation.
A construct of organisations as legal entities betrays the static nature of the approach(through appropriating the organisations into a structural-functionalist paradigm).2 The conceptualisation negates that (a) organisations emerge and live in a social context; (b) social living is dynamic; (c) state and law are social processes; and finally (d) state, law, and organisations in turn shape the social processes.3 In other words, in the process of organising, multiple negotiations go on among the participatory elements. A reformulation of the categories i.e. state, law and society as dynamic processes will help us reconceptualise organisations. Let us take these categories one by one.